The BC Centre for Disease Control is asking British Columbians who may have purchased Freybe headcheese to discard it or return it to their place of purchase as it may be associated with a salmonella outbreak.
Over the past two weeks, 10 cases of a rare strain of salmonella (S. Chester) have been identified among B.C. residents. The only common food consumed by these cases was headcheese, which had been purchased from various stores throughout the province from mid- to late June.
Headcheese is a deli product made from meat from the head of a pig, combined with gelatine and spices.
"The majority of infected people were elderly, and approximately half required hospitalization," explains Dr. Eleni Galanis, physician epidemiologist at the BCCDC, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. "There may be other people who also experienced symptoms, but did not see their doctors, leaving potentially more unreported cases."
Freybe Gourmet Foods Ltd. is voluntarily recalling this product, which is produced by a third-party manufacturer. Because the headcheese is sliced and packaged at deli counters in various stores, most consumers may not be aware of the brand of headcheese purchased.
"If you purchased headcheese from mid-June to July 13, and are uncertain if it is associated with this recall, please call the store where it was purchased to identify the brand," explains Galanis.
The BCCDC is working with B.C. Health Authorities and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to investigate other possible cases and the cause of the contamination and is urging the public to dispose of the contaminated product or return it to their place of purchase.
Salmonella are naturally occurring bacteria found in the intestines of animals, particularly poultry, cattle and swine. Salmonella can contaminate meat, eggs, dairy and raw fruits and vegetables.
Symptoms of salmonella infection may include stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, fever and headache. These symptoms occur six to 72 hours after eating contaminated food, and can last a few days to a week. Most people recover without treatment. Some people may become more seriously ill with bloodstream infections and severe dehydration. If symptoms persist for longer than a few days or are unusually severe, sick people should see their doctor. People at highest risk of severe infection include young children, elderly people, and those with weak immune systems.
If you have symptoms compatible with salmonella infection, call the 24- hour HealthLink BC line at 811, contact your family physician, view the BC HealthFiles on Salmonella and Food Safety at www.bchealthguide.org/healthfiles
, or visit www.bccdc.ca